For a long time I've been saying I should travel more, and last week I was feeling a bit bored and restless. So, in a bout of spontaneity, my sister and I booked a trip to Edinburgh. We both had the weekend off, we've quite fancied going to Scotland for a while and so we booked our trains, booked an Airbnb and that was that. We took a little rucksack each and planned some things to do and off we went. Cost us about £80 each on travel and a place to stay, which wasn't too bad at all.
The train trip up into Scotland was gorgeous. The journey took roughly four hours and we passed through the Lake District which was beautifully snowy and picturesque. We even thought we spotted the bridge from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. However, one thing we didn't plan for was the Rugby (Scotland vs Australia) which meant from Carlisle the train was packed and we weren't able to reserve seats. We were turfed out of ours and crossed the border into Scotland sitting on the floor of the carriage - at least we were near a window.
We got into Edinburgh around ten-ish on Saturday morning. The city itself is gorgeous with its winding streets and the old stone and everything. The castle sits up on the hill looking down over the old town and there's a nice friendly atmosphere to the place. We walked up to the Royal Mile, passed a busker playing the bagpipes (me and Rosie are divided on this one - I like them, she thinks they sound like a cat being strangled) and went to find the J.K Rowling cafe The Elephant House. You know the one, where she used to sit when she was writing Philosopher's Stone. We had to wait a few minutes to get in, but the food was worth it (and when we passed the place the following day at around the same time, there was no queue. So maybe Sunday morning is the time to go?) I had a lovely cooked breakfast with Haggis (which was actually really tasty) and proper tea-leaf tea. The Harry Potter graffiti in the toilets is also immense. I would have got a picture but I felt a bit weird taking my phone into the ladies with me.
After we were fed and watered we wandered past the Greyfriars Bobby statue and around the churchyard where Bobby's owner was buried. If you haven't seen the old Disney film, Bobby was a terrier who sat by his owner's grave every day for fourteen years after the man died. Bless him. The churchyard is very spooky and was J.K Rowling's inspiration for the graveyard in Goblet of Fire where Harry and Voldemort duel. You can really tell, too.
After that we went to drop off our stuff at the Airbnb, which initially seemed really dodgy (it was next to two different strip clubs and up some windy stairs) but our host was lovely and there was a fantastic view of the castle from our window. Plus, the other guest staying there turned out to be nice and normal, and not an axe-murderer or overly social, so that was a relief. We headed to the castle next (with only a quick stop for more tea and cakes at the Thistlestop Cafe).
View from our bedroom window!
If I was going to recommend one destination while you're in Edinburgh it would definitely be the castle. It was £17 to get in and we were a bit sceptical when they said it'd take about two hours to get round everything; but it was well worth the money and there was loads to see. As a Reign fan, I especially appreciated all the Mary Queen of Scots stuff - like the room where she gave birth to James the first, and the portraits, including one of her first husband, Francis. Oh, and the Scottish crown jewels are at the castle too. There's so much history to the place - and the views are fab.
In the evening we found a great little Italian called Made in Italy in Grassmarket (just at the foot of the castle, really tasty food and not too pricey) and then wandered around a bit to find a non-Rugby crowded pub - settling on the Greyfriars Bobby - for drinks.
On Sunday we went for breakfast again (Patisserie Valerie next door to The Elephant House) did a bit of shopping (I finally bought a Hufflepuff scarf in a great little Harry Potter shop called Diagon House) and were planning to go up Arthur's seat but it was freezing and we didn't have the right shoes. We compromised with Carlton Hill which suited us much better (only a ten minute walk but great views nonetheless). There was a fair on in the centre of town, so we had a ride on the big wheel, wandered around the Christmas markets and then popped into the National Gallery - which is free! By then it was time to catch our train, but overall I think we fitted plenty in across the weekend. If I went back again I'd maybe like to do the Edinburgh Dungeons or a ghost tour...
Basically we had a really nice time and Edinburgh is well worth a visit. The castle was spectacular, the food was good everywhere, most places in the centre are within easy walking distance and for views the city has everything - mountains, city-scape, the sea... Oh, and the locals are friendly which makes a difference. Take a hat though, it's cold up North.
Ever been to Scotland? What other British cities would you recommend?